South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to make several steps toward denuclearization to promote “a land of peace” after their summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday.
Kim and Moon signed the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration, which offered more specifics than in previous agreements, in front of gaggle of news reporters for their third summit meeting. Moon arrived on Wednesday as the first South Korean president in Pyongyang in 11 years.
One of the key parts of the agreement included the “permanent dismantlement” of North Korea’s primary nuclear facility in Yongbyon, and allowing international inspectors to observe the closure of an engine test site and missile launch pad. Moon prefaced this plan by noting the US needed to reciprocate the measure.
“We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat,” Kim said. “The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can’t anticipate.”
Kim and Moon also agreed to make a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. The two countries competed together during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, despite some protests from conservative South Korean lawmakers and athletes. The move was part of an initial effort to improve relations between the two Koreas ahead of a summit between the US and North Korea, which took place in June.
Kim also said he “promised” to visit Seoul “in the near future.” Moon reiterated the claim by saying that a potential visit may take place in 2018 “unless there are certain special circumstances.” A visit by a North Korean leader to Seoul, the first since the Korean Peninsula was divided, would likely spark mass protests, just as it did when North Korea’s delegation of athletes and musical performers visited the country during the Winter Olympics.
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father, made a similar promise to visit Seoul after a summit in 2000, but the trip never happened.
While the two leaders expressed cautious optimism in the months ahead, the US, South Korea’s key ally, expressed concern over the developments. US-North Korean diplomatic relations have seemingly stalled after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suddenly canceled his trip to North Korea in August.
President Donald Trump embraced Kim since their June meeting in Singapore. Conversely, Trump has publicly sought to drive a wedge between China and the North, at times scapegoating China for slowing the diplomatic process.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a skeptic of North Korea’s recent outreach to the international community, said he was “concerned” over Moon’s visit to Pyongyang.
“I’m concerned South Korea’s visit is going to undermine efforts by [Pompeo] and [US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley] to impose maximum pressure on the North Korean regime,” Graham said in a tweet on Tuesday. “While North Korea has stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearization.”
“South Korea should not be played by Kim Jong Un,” Graham added.
Following the declaration’s signing, Trump praised the development and called it “very exciting.”
“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts,” Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday night. “In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing.”